Wednesday, May 25, 2011

(1) Image & Identity

When enrolled in the Psychology seminar at Matthew Fox's
workshop, I had occasion to talk privately with the Jungian
analyst who was leading it. Not normally giving over to talking
about private issues, I surprised myself. I had been having
dreams that were bothering me, dreams about death and
resurrection. As I related these dreams to the analyst, he
finally said "you have to make a change."

What had been bothering me was the disparity between my
professional life and this big shift I had made that had led me
to the monastery--and eventually towards a more monastic
orientation. The disparity was huge. When young I majored
at various undergraduate and postgraduate schools in several
disciplines. As put, they included International Studies, Science
Studies, and Policy Studies.

This academic background prepared me for the "real world," if
you will. It was a world of super-powers standing off against
one another during the Cold War. The super powers were
gaming with one another, rattling their swords with those
monstrosities of technology: weapons of mass destruction.
And my work as a government science and technology analyst
specifically focused on global security issues, involving non-stop
stress. Occasionally a crack opened in this dangerous game,
and that's where the business of arms control and disarmament
entered into the picture. It was the ancient business of trying to
forge swords into ploughshares. More than often, however, it
was a fruitless endeavor. Weapon systems would be retired,
only to be replaced by even more sophisticated, more
dangerous weapons.

My last few years in this kind of work I had become sick to death
of it. And those death and resurrection dreams had become
obvious to me, even before the Jungian analyst said "you have
to make a change."

It was a big life decision for me, but I decided to retire from the
government as early as I could--while I was still youngish. I
cannot deny that it was scary, carrying through with this decision.
I had financial concerns, but I figured that I could manage. Of more
concern was the question over what I would do for the rest of my
life. As it turned out, I need not have been worried over this at all.
There was plenty to do, even though I wasn't clear at the time.

Leaving my professional life was like a "death" for me, but it was a
happy death! For the first time in a long time I felt really free.
Nevertheless, at this point, the challenge facing me was the issue
of "resurrection."

In a very real way I suddenly had lost my sense of identity. Tthere's
always that light discourse that one's identity should be about who
you are, not what you do; but, when push came to shove, I realized
that over those many years with government that--yes--I had
identified with this work. It was important, necessary. Stressful as
it had become, there was a part of me that identified with the idea
of being a good guardian. But now I had seemingly had become

Being "nothing" doesn't mean that there's nothing to do. It didn't take
me long to start filling in the days. Now free with my time, I decided
to enroll in a course at the Washington Theological Union. Focusing
on Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross, the course was
taught by John Welsh--a Carmelite priest and monk. I was still
trying to come to grips with the Medieval Mystics. However, at the
same time, I noted that Fr. Welch approached these two Carmelite
saints from a psychological perspective.

Again, as with the Psychology seminar at Matthew Fox's workshop,
I was especially interested in Welch's use of Jungian Psychology.
Though not yet all that cognizant, I was becoming keenly interested in
depth psychology operating on two levels: the personal level, and the
religious level. By "religious," I was mostly trying to harken back to who
Jesus was, trying to understand more explicitly--psychologically--what
his message might intend.

Fortunately I was lucky. In this course I found out about the Jungian
analyst and priest John Sanford, who wrote some very important books
to which I attend unto this day. Two I'll mention:


Approaching depth psychologgy at the religious level proved an
eye-opener for me. I found loads of Jungian authors publishing books
in this field, With this, I had moved into the psychological imagery of
Religion--only to discover that this approach towards our human
understanding of the Numinous had long been around amongst
religious scholars and mythologists. Again, I was not threatened; but,
rather, totally fascinated by the new insights that I was encountering.
Also, I was beginning to use depth psychology regarding my own
understanding of "who I am." It's back to this business of identity.